From the Field: Greening and Cleaning in NOLA


The week of June 6, New Orleans served as host site for the 2011 National Conference on Volunteering and Service. Convened by the Points of Light Institute and the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), this conference is the world’s largest gathering of volunteers and welcomes service leaders from the nonprofit, corporate, and government sectors. As part of our partnership with the CNCS, staffers from Global Green USA’s New Orleans office helped organizers add green elements to the conference and plan a volunteer outing for 30 attendees in the 7th Ward.

Prior to the convening, Global Green staff members worked with conference organizers to incorporate significant green elements into the conference. We provided green content for the program, supplying out of town attendees with eco-friendly dining options and information on the green efforts going on around New Orleans that they might check out while in town. Additionally, Global Green encouraged conference organizers to employ conference-wide green measures, such as providing digital copies of workshop materials in advance of sessions rather than printing; providing conference attendees with personal, refillable water bottles (generously donated by Chase) instead of relying on disposable cups; and making use of the recycling stations positioned throughout the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.

In addition to helping green the overall conference, Global Green USA hosted a half-day volunteer event. In partnership with the 7th Ward Neighborhood Center, 30 conference attendees took part in the Immersion Learning Session by assisting with a variety of projects to improve the energy efficiency, beauty, and safety of the neighborhood. Global Green VISTAs Al Wilson and Cody Wero led a team in weatherizing the home of a low-income 7th Ward resident; work involved sealing gaps around windows and doors with caulk and installing low-flow shower heads and faucet aerators, door sweeps to keep out drafts, and a dual-flush conversion kit on the home’s toilet. While they were at work inside the resident’s home, additional volunteers were cleaning up the outside of the home. One volunteer was so taken with the project that he asked if he could stay to help for the afternoon session as well.

Two doors down, 7th Ward Neighborhood Center Director J. Samuel Cook helped another group of volunteers spruce up the Center with a coat of paint in typical New Orleans fashion--purple with gold trim. Meanwhile, I was joined by fellow Global Green staffer Laney White to work with groups of volunteers cleaning trash from the street and clearing out gutters clogged with debris from a recent downpour. Along the way, volunteers met a variety of neighbors who were working on beautification efforts of their own and were excited to have the out-of-town helpers there to assist.

After wrapping up the volunteer activities and braving temps in the 90s, volunteers relaxed with some refreshments then boarded the bus for an air conditioned lagniappe tour of the 9th Ward. With the assistance of a very talented bus driver and knowledgeable tour coordinator, participants were navigated through the sometimes-narrow streets of the Upper and Lower 9th Wards for a view of the Make It Right Project, Bayou Bienvenue and Global Green’s own Holy Cross Project. In all, the volunteers had a great time getting to know our city and doing what they do best--giving their time and sweat to build our city back one home at a time.

Becki Chall